This morning I went for a run, starting and finishing in the parking lot of a local coffee shop, just like I do almost every Monday morning. This morning was different, though. The parking lot, usually packed, was empty. The only two cars there were those of the employees inside, serving zero customers.
Over the past few weeks the news, our social media feeds, and most conversations have become about one topic: the spread of the coronavirus. Regardless of how big a deal you believe it is, one thing is certain. COVID-19 is affecting our culture and how we interact with one another.
This is something that cannot be ignored by people in recovery. Every news story we hear encourages “social distancing.” While creating safe space for the benefit of our health, and the health of others, is a good and necessary step, people in recovery must find ways to stay connected.
For a recovering addict, social distancing feels an awful lot like isolation. And anyone in recovery knows what isolation does. One of the most important things we can do as part of a recovery program is to stay connected. So, how do we do this in a season when we are being encouraged to separate? Here are a few ideas:
- Be self-aware about isolation. One of the best things I’ve ever learned in recovery has been to slow down and pay attention to what I’m feeling and experiencing. Sometimes when I “feel” triggered to lust, there’s actually not anything sexual going on beneath the surface. What I’m really feeling in those moments is bored, or mad, or lonely. During these days of social distancing, we have to be aware that loneliness is going to crank up, and my addiction will want to take advantage of it.
- Schedule your time more rigidly. If you don’t already have good, healthy structure in your life, now’s the time to put it into place. I don’t know many people who have done SAA’s Three Circles exercise who would put “binging on Netflix” in their healthy outer circle. Figure out what makes you feel energized, encouraged, alive…and put as many of those things in your life as possible.
- Use technology to stay connected. While people recovering from porn/sex addiction have lots of experience misusing technology, that doesn’t mean technology is bad, or even the problem. In fact, we can use it every day to stay connected, from basic ways like making calls or texting to using Zoom or Skype to hear and see the people with whom we’re talking. Being physically separated from a community – if that is something necessary for you, for now – doesn’t mean you can’t still be connected.
- Take advantage of more time to connect with God. Step 11 reminds us of the value and necessity of “improving our conscious contact with God” through “prayer and meditation.” Has your work or school been cancelled? Are you at home with more time on your hands than normal? Why not take advantage of that time by prioritizing time with God? His Word is a great antidote to fear, and strengthening our connection with Him through prayer is extremely comforting and helpful when we’re triggered.
There are obviously a lot more things worth considering, but these four will help make sure isolation doesn’t sneak up on us. Getting creative to stay connected when culture is encouraging us to physically separate will help keep us on the road to recovery.
Greg Oliver has been in recovery from porn/sex addiction since 2009. He and his wife Stacey founded Awaken as a way to walk with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders, and to help them experience healing in the midst of sexual brokenness. Awaken is preparing to offer online recovery meetings, at least during this season of social distancing. To receive more information on how to connect to these meetings, click HERE.